Smoking and premature aging of the skin
Research has confirmed that smoking ages the skin due to the increased production of an enzyme that breaks down collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein that maintains the skinís elasticity. In comparison to non-smokers, the skin of those who smoke can take on a grayish hue and prematurely age by 10 to 20 years. Although the many damaging effects of cigarette smoke on the skin are irreversible, further deterioration can be avoided by quitting. Tobacco smoke has drying effects on the skinís surface and it restricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow to the skin, which depletes vital supplies of oxygen and essential nutrients for sustaining a healthy appearance. Furthermore, smoking reduces the body's store of vitamin A, which provides protection against some skin-damaging agents. The mouths of smokers frequently have creases and wrinkles that form as a result of drawing/inhaling on a cigarette. The development of hollow cheeks through repeated sucking on cigarettes is also common, especially in under-weight individuals. Prolonged smoking causes discoloration of the fingers and fingernails (especially on the hand that habitually holds the cigarette), yellowing of the teeth and bad breath.